Representing the creative future

The cyclic nature of addicts: New Waves, Lee Bodkin

Lee Bodkin originates from Glasgow, Scotland, from where he pursued his creative ambitions until reaching the guilded halls of Central Saint Martins. He developed his graduate collection through careful research on the social implications of drug addiction, reflected in his hoarding-style textiles that investigate the cyclic nature of many addicts. Taking such a contentious theme as a starting point for a fashion collection raises issues — important ones, which Lee carefully reflected on as he developed his garments.

The path of Lee is far from typical of the average CSM undergraduate: after leaving school at 17 in Glasgow, he was accepted onto a one-year portfolio preparation course at Cardonald, a local college in his home town, which allowed him to “dabble in a variety of subjects like fine art and sculpture, as well as fashion design,” he explains, tracing his educational path. He subsequently pursued a vocational degree similar to BTEC at the same college, which focused on manufacturing. “I only found out about Central Saint Martins in my last year at college, when we were applying to art schools,” he says. “In the end, CSM was the only art school to accept me, so I think it was just luck, really.”

For his final collection, he presented a curious womenswear collection of layered textiles in earthy tones with a particular aesthetic reminiscent of hoarding – flickering, compiling, or beautiful bricolage. He developed his characteristic textiles during his final year while researching addiction and the lifestyles of those dealing with substance abuse. But as he digged deeper into his socially contested research, he came to realise the politics of research and appropriation. “The more in-depth I got into this topic, I realised that I would have to express this serious issue without exploiting anyone who is dealing with these problems on a daily basis. I decided to try and represent this in a more abstract way.” He represented the circular lifestyle of those dealing with addictions through a series of repeated textiles, consisting of entrapped paper and scrap fabric underneath each of the tapes. The garments seem to function both as a shelter and as a document of accumulated experiences, yet importantly raise themselves above exploitation and appropriation of images of poverty.

While Lee sees a correlation from his early work to his final collection, he by no means claims that his process was thought through. “I was quite lucky as a lot of what I ended up doing for my final collection developed from a few things that I was experimenting with in the summer before I started again. To be honest, all of the early stuff was pretty bad.” Unsure of what he wanted to do, he struggled in the beginning of his BA, but took inspiration from the work ethos of his peers; “It helped being surrounded by really talented people; seeing their own approach and styles encouraged me to try and find mine. I realised that it’s important for myself to trust my instincts when designing and I think realising something like this is invaluable.”

Lee Bodkin has shown an impressive eye for renegotiating the female silhouette, as well as presenting compelling abstractions from actual social research. He plans to develop his practice even further as he embarks on the MA course of the same school, “and try not to worry so much about what happens afterwards,” he tells us. “Hopefully someone will give me a job though!”